You had unprotected sex. Perhaps the condom broke, perhaps it was a mistake, or unwanted or rape. Now you’re worried about HIV. What should you do next?
Act fast. If you strongly suspect that you had unprotected sex with somebody who is HIV-positive, you need to go to the clinic immediately to ask about taking drugs that can help reduce the risk of HIV infection. They are called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and they need to be taken within 72 hours.
What if you were raped? If you have been raped and do not know the HIV status of your rapist, you also need to insist that you are put on PEP. A baseline HIV test will be done. If this test shows that you are HIV-positive, it means that you were already infected prior to being raped. It’s important for the doctor to know this, because the PEP treatment is different for someone who is already infected.
Get a test. You need to take an HIV test. The time between infection and when the HIV antibodies can be found in your blood is called the window period. It is 6 to 8 weeks long for most people. This means that even if you test negative for HIV at your first test, you must get tested again after three months to make sure your test result is still negative.
PEP is available at government health facilities so don’t delay. No matter what the cause, you now need to do whatever you can to protect yourself and your health.